The conference of Cancun and its nightly happiness are now far behind us, but it is not too late to look at this agreement one more time and try to understand it a bit thoroughly.
The last night of Cancun, I was happy to celebrate the first good news in my three Conferences of the Parties and in total at least 10 different climate conferences. Despite this happiness, I had some worries: How did the parties forget all their disagreements that quickly? Why is this agreement that different, that much better? Why did the USA – especially with its new conservative and sceptical Senate – agree that quickly on this new negotiation text? I had a lot of questions, but all these worries and questions were drowned in the loads of applauds and laughter in the plenary room. Did our common happiness deceive us?
In order to understand fully, we have to go back to Copenhagen one year ago. After a few hours of negotiations, Obama announced that “the parties” had found an agreement and that the world was saved! A long night of negotiations after, the text became known as the Copenhagen Accord, just taken into note by the Conference of the Parties at its 15th meeting. The criticisms of the environmental NGOs and of some developing countries were heavy. It was a failure, the parties were cooking the planet, the temperature was about to increase of at least 4 degrees Celsius. The disappointment was huge.
My second thoughts in the middle of the good vibes of the last night in Cancun were not accidental. If you have a look at the three main stakes of the current climate negotiations: adaptation to the consequences of climate change, the common objective of increase of the global average temperature and the mitigation targets for 2020, the differences between the Cancun Agreement and the Copenhagen Accord are insignificant, even non-existent.
Lets have a look:
Money for adaptation:
The worst element in the common objective is the wording. In the Copenhagen Accord, the parties “agreed on” cutting the emissions, in the Cancun Agreement, the parties “recognized” that the have to cut the emissions… Is the Agreement weaker than the Accord?
In the Copenhagen Accord, the parties had to submit their volunteer objectives of emissions reduction to the Secretariat of the UNFCCC. The Cancun Agreement took note of these voluntary submissions, and urges the developed countries to increase their ambitions.
How could the elements of the Copenhagen Accord so easily go from being banned and rejected by over 50 countries and most NGOs to be welcomed with such joy?
The US and the developed countries deserve sincere congratulations for their efforts this year. They managed to get almost all the developing countries to agree on a text that is probably weaker than the Copenhagen Accord on the most crucial elements of the negotiations. Of course, the Cancun Agreement presents some non-negligible advantages notably for the protection of the tropical forests (REDD+) and for the transfer of technology, but the “balanced package” the parties were looking for in 2010 is definitely not on the table.